Federal regulation CFR 252.3 notes that:

Air carriers shall prohibit smoking on all scheduled passenger flights.

Was this because of: 1) passenger safety concerns (the airplane may catch on fire from an unextinguished cigarette); 2) consumer demand (passengers demanded all-non-smoking flights); or, 3) for occupational safety concerns (the flight attendants were breathing in cigarette smoke all day)?

I've posted my own answer but am happy to be proven incorrect.

Related questions:

When did inflight smoking become (widely) prohibited?

Is it legal to smoke in your own plane?

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    $\begingroup$ Though I'm not privy to FAA decision-making, I suggest it was really neither of those reasons. Instead, it was because society had gotten to the point where the non-smoking majority was no longer willing to put up with abuse from the smoking minority. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Mar 8 '15 at 4:23
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps there was more than one single reason. $\endgroup$
    – A E
    Mar 8 '15 at 10:08
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    $\begingroup$ Related: Is it legal to smoke in your own plane? $\endgroup$
    – kevin
    Mar 8 '15 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Not to mention that cigarette effluent is both poisonous and carcinogenic, as well as foul smelling. $\endgroup$ Mar 11 '15 at 5:26
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    $\begingroup$ @MarkyMark and the nicotine stains and burn marks left all over the interior are a major PITA to get rid of. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Jun 27 '17 at 6:02

If you look at the part of the Federal code (49 U.S. Code § 41706) that actually instantiates this :

(a) Smoking Prohibition in Interstate and Intrastate Air Transportation.— An individual may not smoke— (1) in an aircraft in scheduled passenger interstate or intrastate air transportation; or (2) in an aircraft in nonscheduled passenger interstate or intrastate air transportation, if a flight attendant is a required crewmember on the aircraft (as determined by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration). (b) Smoking Prohibition in Foreign Air Transportation.— The Secretary of Transportation shall require all air carriers and foreign air carriers to prohibit smoking— (1) in an aircraft in scheduled passenger foreign air transportation; and (2) in an aircraft in nonscheduled passenger foreign air transportation, if a flight attendant is a required crewmember on the aircraft (as determined by the Administrator or a foreign government).

It is the presence of a flight attendant that triggers the non-smoking requirement. Thus, one can safely assume that it is an occupational safety concern (sidestream smoke) that forced the regulation change.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Is a flight attendant required on all scheduled flights, then? Otherwise, the ban on scheduled flights doesn't mention flight attendants. $\endgroup$
    – cpast
    Mar 8 '15 at 2:11
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    $\begingroup$ You know, this is probably the most-knowledgeable and generally best site on the network! :O thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Mar 8 '15 at 5:25
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting. I always thought it came in after the Air Canada 797 accident, but looking into it now I can't say so with certainty. Re the question on flight attendants - FAs are only required on aircraft with more than 19 seats. I worked for a company that operated 18 seat Metroliners with no FAs so the pilot did the safety briefing - no food or drink served however! $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Mar 8 '15 at 8:19
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    $\begingroup$ If a flight attendant is required from 19+ passengers there could be smoking flights with attendants if there are maximal 19 people on the flight, since the law states "if a flight attendant is a required crewmember on the aircraft". So, if I read this correctly, under 19 ppl you can have smoking flights with attendants! $\endgroup$ Mar 8 '15 at 13:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Doge - almost. They're not required on a per passenger basis, they are required on a per seat basis (in some countries it is per doors and not per seats). And if an aircraft has a no smoking sign then that is law, so don't insist upon smoking on any flight! $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Mar 9 '15 at 5:48

I suspect the rules and motivations will vary from country to country. Starting with the rules, for example, ANR 25 (1) specifies that:

 A person shall not smoke anywhere in a prescribed aircraft.

While ANR 25 (6) specifies that:

prescribed aircraft means an aircraft that:
  (a) is a regular public transport aircraft, or an open‑use charter aircraft; and
  (b) is engaged in:
    (i) the carriage of passengers between airports in Australian territory; or
    (ii) Australian international carriage (except the carriage of freight only)

That effectively criminalises smoking on scheduled domestic and international flights as well as charter flights.

In addition, CAR 255 states:

 (1) Subject to subregulation (1A), a person must not smoke:
   (a) in a part of an aircraft in which a notice is permanently displayed indicating that smoking is prohibited at all times or without specifying a period during which smoking is prohibited;
   (b) anywhere in an aircraft during take-off, landing or refuelling or during a period:
     (i) in which a notice is temporarily displayed indicating that smoking is prohibited; or
     (ii) which is specified in a permanently displayed notice as a period during which smoking is prohibited;

Which effectively criminalises smoking on any aircraft where any kind of no smoking sign has been placed.

The reasons stated for the smoking ban vary (and are not usually stated in the laws or regulations themselves), but generally include (1) safety of air crew and passengers, (2) cost savings for airlines and (3) eliminating conflict between smoking and non-smoking passengers.


According to this letter to the House Subcommittee, the flight attendants were seeking for the same protections in their workplace as every other worker. This case study discusses how organized labor negotiated for the change in regulation.


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